Journal of Cold War Studies 4.2 (2002) 120-125
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Bereitschaft zu Einheit in Freiheit?
Die sowjetische Deutschland-Politik 1945-1955
Gerhard Wettig, Bereitschaft zu Einheit in Freiheit? Die sowjetische Deutschland-Politik 1945-1955. Munich: Olzog, 1999. 330 pp. DM 24.80.
Although history is an argument without end, it is fair to say that in recent years historians have achieved a broader consensus on why the Allies of World War II failed to create a unified Germany after 1945. Important differences of interpretation remain, but the availability of new evidence from Soviet, East German, and other archives has undercut certain interpretations and lent credence to others. In particular, it is now more difficult to argue, as many historians once did (and a few still do), that from 1945 to 1955 the Soviet Union was ever able to accept a truly independent, unified Germany. We have learned too much about the Soviet vision of Germany's future for that idea to have the same stature that it did before 1990. At the same time we still lack a truly international history of this issue during the Stalin years, one that integrates Western and Communist policies at both the international level and inside Germany and explains why neither East nor West was capable of meeting the other halfway. Gerhard Wettig's book is not intended to be a full-fledged international history, but it is a good example of how our understanding of the reasons behind Germany's division has improved in recent years.
The opening of formerly closed archives in Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1990s ensured that most of the latest reassessments of the German question have focused [End Page 120] mainly on the Communist side. New works based on Western archives have also been published (Carolyn Eisenberg's Drawing the Line and Marc Trachtenberg's A Constructed Peace are two prominent examples) and are valuable in their own right, but they also seem like products from another age. For the most part, they are strangely silent on the East-bloc sources that have moved Cold War history forward during the past decade. The most important recent contribution to our understanding of the German question in the early Cold War is Norman Naimark's magisterial The Russians in Germany. Although Naimark does not deal much with diplomatic questions per se, his book illuminates the causes of East-West discord in and over Germany. In particular he describes Soviet and German Communist views of Germany's future and how these views often led to action that was counterproductive and polarizing. Naimark has genuinely moved Cold War history forward by showing how ideas and events "on the ground" set severe limits on what politics and diplomacy could achieve.
Most of the other new research on the German question has emerged in Germany itself. Recent German work can be divided into two main categories: articles and books on the one hand and (annotated) document publications on the other. This scholarship is the foundation for all new research on the German question. Together with scholars such as Michael Lemke, Wilfried Loth, Elke Scherstjanoi, and Jochen Laufer, Gerhard Wettig has been at the forefront of the latest German scholarship. He and his many colleagues are a lively and extremely productive bunch. Besides books, they have published numerous articles in leading journals such as Deutschland Archiv,Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Arbeiter- bewegung, Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung, and Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, as well as a variety of article collections and conference volumes. Wettig's own recent work builds on a long career that began in the mid-1960s. Most significant in relation to the book under review, he was able to work in archives of the former Soviet Union during the early 1990s, at a time of somewhat greater openness in the Russian archives than at present. Until the publication of this book, the most important product of Wettig's research was an article published in 1993 in which, for...